TEL AVIV – Sunni Arab states including Egypt and Saudi Arabia are pushing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume negotiations with Israel as part of a wider strategy to confront the region’s growing threat from Iran, a senior Egyptian official told the daily Israel Hayom on Monday.
According to the report, the urgency was compounded by Friday’s attack in northern Sinai that left 305 people dead in a Sufi mosque. Egypt has suspicions that some of the terrorists responsible for the bombing and shooting attacks managed to escape to Gaza through underground tunnels dug by the terror group Hamas.
The Egyptian official told Israel Hayom that, along with his country, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and several Gulf states hope to establish a coalition to confront terror groups in the region, including Iranian proxy Hezbollah.
A report at the Hebrew-language news site nrg seemed to corroborate that statement, with a unnamed senior Palestinian official saying that Abbas was under “serious pressure” from Sunni states to renew talks as well as full “security coordination with Israel, in an effort to create a regional front against Iranian influence in the region and to combat terror.”
The Palestinian official also said that Hamas officials were aware that their tunnels were used to smuggle terrorists out of Egypt.
“Hamas and Palestinian factions are working with Iran and Hezbollah, and Hamas also collaborates with the Islamic State in the Sinai and sells it weapons used against Egyptians,” said the source.
Another PA official also spoke to Israel Hayom, saying that the recent reconciliation deal between Hamas and the PA’s ruling Fatah party is not living up to the expectations set by Egypt, which acted as a broker in the deal.
“The Egyptians are working to end the weapons smuggling from Gaza to Islamic terrorist groups in Sinai,” the PA official said.
“Without regional cooperation and help, from the Palestinians as well, terrorism will hit everyone. Hamas and the Palestinian factions are cooperating with Iran and Hezbollah, and Hamas is also partnering with Islamic State’s Sinai branch and selling the weapons it uses to harm Egyptian security forces.”
Hamas on Monday refused Fatah’s demand that it surrender its weapons as per the reconciliation deal.
“Hamas will never agree to discuss the weapons of the resistance. These weapons will not be touched. It’s not for debate or talks. These weapons will clearly move to the West Bank to battle the [Israeli] occupation there. It’s our right to fight the occupation until it ends,” said Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar’s deputy in Gaza.